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Posted at 11:04 AM ET, 12/10/2010

Jazz great James Moody dies at 85

By Matt Schudel
Matt Schudel


James Moody, a jazz saxophonist and flutist whose stellar career lasted more than six decades, died Thursday in San Diego at age 85.

Moody created one of the historically significant solos in jazz history, with his 1949 recording of "I'm in the Mood for Love." Moody describes the original recording, made in Stockholm, in this clip.

His improvisation was so original and lithe that singer Eddie Jefferson put lyrics to Moody's solo, and a new song was born. "Moody's Mood for Love," made popular in 1954 by King Pleasure was one of the first examples of vocalese, or lyrics written to fit the contours of an instrumental solo. "Moody's Mood" has eclipsed the original in popularity among musicians and is a landmark in jazz. (An uncredited Blossom Dearie sings the secondary part of the song, incidentally.)

Moody worked for many years alongside Dizzy Gillespie and had a distinguished career, recording several of his finest albums when he was in his 80s.

I knew Moody slightly, and he was a colorful, ebullient figure, always ready with a laugh and a quip. He was generally called just "Moody," by the way, even by himself. He was born in Savannah, Ga., and had a role in the Clint Eastwood film "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," which was filmed in Savannah. Moody's character walks an imaginary dog on a leash.

A full obituary is here, but in the meantime, listen to Moody's original recording of "I'm in the Mood for Love."

By Matt Schudel  | December 10, 2010; 11:04 AM ET
Categories:  Matt Schudel  
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Comments

Thank you for this tribute to James Moody. I can't say that I knew his music well, but became familiar with him in George Benson's cover of "Moody's Mood" with Patti Austin, I believe. At the end, GB says, "James Moody you can come on in and blow now ... we're through." That was my ex's song to me. The marriage didn't last, but my love of the song did! Thank you for sharing your talent with the world, Mr. Moody.

Posted by: gitouttahere | December 10, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Thank you Matt Schudel. James Moody was one of my favorite musicians of all time. Along with his immense musical talent was a sense of humor that seemed to be a part of everything he did. I think of one wonderful night at One Step Down where he took me by the arm in the middle of another musician's solo pretending to be the maitre d and escorted me to my booth near the bandstand. While I met him once or twice I didn't know him. But a great picture of Moody taken by a photographer friend in Puerto Rico sits on the wall as you enter my basement. What beautiful music came out of that man.

"James Moody, you can come on in man
and you can blow now if you want to. We’re through."

Dave Statter

Posted by: STATter911 | December 10, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Schudel, Why your eulogy was
nice, your research is incorrect. James Moody did not write "I'm in the Mood for Love." That song was written by Jummy McHugh anlyrics by Dorothy Fields. It was published in 1935. It was popularized in the 'Our Gang' Little Rascals' episodes from the 1940s when Alfalfa would serenade Darla.

Moody composed "Moody's Mood for Love, " in 1949. It was a jazz saxaphone solo piece. People confused it w/the McHugh/Fields song, so Moody wrote lyrics to differentiate the two songs.

I know this because when I was living in Las Vegas in 1998, when I met a record store owner, by the name of Jeff Rodney. He is the youngest son of Red Rodney, otherwise known as 'Albino Red.' He played trumpet in Charlie Parker's quintet. He was the only white member in the band, as they toured the segregated South, thus the moniker. Rodney's fathertold him that story when he was a boy and he passed that that story on to me. I thought I should pass this info along, as I've seen this error in research duplicated in several other publications.

Posted by: ktaylor15 | December 10, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Moody is was an angel sent to this world to spread his 'wings of love' with his gifts, his art form and the only 'Orginal American Art Form' and the world became a much better place. In fact, cultures around the world were enhanced and enriched by jazz. His transformation and ascension to heaven is evidence that God needs angels also...

Posted by: Atpeace45211 | December 10, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Moody is was an angel sent to this world to spread his 'wings of love' with his gifts, his art form and the only 'Orginal American Art Form' and the world became a much better place. In fact, cultures around the world were enhanced and enriched by jazz. His transformation and ascension to heaven is evidence that God needs angels also...

Posted by: Atpeace45211 | December 10, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

A great musician and a really nice man. I saw him at One Step Down and then at a club on Georgia Avenue in the late 70s/early 80s. I think I liked his singing as much as his playing. He was modest about his voice, but like the great horn player he was, his phrasing when he sang was wonderful. At one show he had a guest vocalist who had a "better" voice, but Moody had the swing when singing as well as playing that the other guy would never have. At the Georgia Avenue gig, I talked with him a little during a break. He had played a few tunes on flute and I was learning jazz improvisation on flute at the time, so we talked a little about flute playing. He was tickled that someone would want to talk flute with him. As Jimmie Vaughan might sing, heaven done called another hornslinger back home.

Posted by: cgold | December 10, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Another giant gone...

Posted by: shamken | December 10, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

I briefly shook hands with Mr. James Moody at the Thunderbird Ski Lodge in Taos, New Mexico after a very energetic Jazz Session circa 1986. What a warm person and great music. I'll never forget that time of great happiness. He usually comes to mind every now and then, and it's always his great happy energy.

Posted by: kidkayt | December 10, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

In response to ktaylor15:
Thank you for your comment. You're right that Jimmy McHugh wrote the original version of "I'm in the Mood for Love" in 1935, with lyrics by Dorothy Fields. But if you read my post closely, you'll see that I never said Moody wrote the song. He created an improvised solo based on the harmonic structure of "I'm in the Mood for Love," which resulted in essentially a new and, I would argue, more interesting song with a different melody. The lyrics were written by Eddie Jefferson, not by Moody. After "Moody's Mood" became a hit, McHugh sued for copyright infringement and received royalty payments.
By the way, Red Rodney, the jazz trumpeter you cite in your post, was a good friend of mine. I used to visit him at his home in Boynton Beach, Fla.

Posted by: Matt Schudel | December 10, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for responding Mr. Schudel. And thank you for the clarification. Are you saying that Moody did a jazz version of "I'm in the Mood For Love?" That is very interesting. It explains a lot. Most remakes are horrible imitations. Inspiration cannot produced. In this be duplicated, at will. In this case, the inspiration was split like two Kings at the Black Jack table. like "I'm in the Mood..." is a very campy, cheesy vaudeville type of song, that certainly dates itself. While Moody's version, at least to me, has become a standard, a classic, timeless and enduring. But then again, classical and jazz have always been timeless genres. It can never date itself.

By the way, if you get a chance, ask Red's son about the story he told me. I'm sure there's more info there to be shared on that subject. Thanks, again.

Posted by: ktaylor15 | December 10, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Never heard of him.

Posted by: RealTexan1 | December 10, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

"James Moody, you can come on in man
and you can blow now if you want to. We’re through."

Dave Statter


*******************************************

Thank you, Mr. Statter ... that's exactly how George Benson sang it at the end. (smile)

Posted by: gitouttahere | December 10, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Never heard of him.

Posted by: RealTexan1 | December 10, 2010 4:44 PM

*******************************************

Well, then, I guess you and Mr. Moody have something in common since he more than likely never heard of you either!

Posted by: gitouttahere | December 10, 2010 5:20 PM | Report abuse

"James Moody, you can come and you can blow now if you want, we're thru".

A class act.

He will be missed.

Posted by: ceefer66 | December 10, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse

"James Moody, you can come on in and you can blow now. We're through" was first sung and recorded by King Pleasure. Everyone since who sang these lyrics are just copying King Pleasure and that includes George Benson.

Posted by: dmcl363 | December 10, 2010 8:44 PM | Report abuse


The FULL INFO on 'I'm In The Mood For Love'

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moody%27s_Mood_for_Love

Posted by: NOTINFL | December 10, 2010 8:57 PM | Report abuse

I have posted a bunch of links on James Moody on my blog including the NY Times obituary. I will add link to the Post obit when it is published.

http://inabluemood.blogspot.com/2010/12/rip-james-moody-1925-2010.html

Posted by: rbluesw | December 10, 2010 9:46 PM | Report abuse

I have posted a bunch of links on James Moody on my blog including the NY Times obituary. I will add link to the Post obit when it is published.

http://inabluemood.blogspot.com/2010/12/rip-james-moody-1925-2010.html

Posted by: rbluesw | December 10, 2010


---

Thanks very much for this. And thanks to Schudel for this well-deserved tribute.

Posted by: twm1 | December 10, 2010 10:11 PM | Report abuse

Terry Gross replayed an interview she did some years ago with Moody on her NPR show Fresh Air. The interview on the 12-10 show can be found at:


http://www.npr.org/2010/12/10/131958862/fresh-air-remembers-saxophonist-james-moody

Posted by: twm1 | December 10, 2010 10:24 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the tribute to this legend. One of the highlights of my life was meeting Moody and several of his jazz peers after a show at the Blue Note. I write about it on my "Free Ride" blog for any who are interested: http://inourelements.com/3-free-ride/moodys-mellow-tone
Stan Dotson
inourelements.com

Posted by: standotson | December 12, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

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